April: associated with the spring sunshine and fresh buds, the words ‘narrow margins’ also blossom at this time of year. Whether it’s the end of the football season or the beginning of Formula One, BBC Graphics department will be sure to overuse these words in the coming broadcasts.
However, ‘narrow margins’ apply all year round to one particular sport and this time in metres. In the world of golf, the lip of a hole can cost you a tournament and, in this year’s Masters, I would say it’s never been closer. Coverage of the final day starts at 6:30pm tonight but who is in contention for that famous green jacket?
In the world of golf, the lip of a hole can cost you a tournament and, in this year’s Masters, I would say it’s never been closer.
Let’s start at the top. Now, can you name some rising stars? Allow me: Jordan Speith. The 21-year-old currently tops the world-famous leader-board in Augusta, Georgia State, with 16 under. After two rounds, a total of 15 birdies and only one bogey gave Speith a record score of 14 under. This is only his second Masters, finishing equal second last year; he also has two PGA titles under his belt. Although he is the only man in the top 4 with a double-bogey, the strength of Speith’s game derives from his putting accuracy: he is averaging 1.39 putts per hole, the best in the tournament, exemplified on the 9th hole in Round 1. The man from Texas will be dreaming of his first major title, a truly achievable feat for this young man.
But lo, the calls of ‘The British are coming!’ could be ringing out across the green and pleasant land with the rise of Justin Rose, on ’12 under’. Rose is competing in his 10th Masters tournament but this is his highest position going into the final round. This tournament has seen Rose rise in form, capped off with 4 birdies in a row, a brilliant bunker shot on the 16th and a perfect putt on the 18th yesterday. Surgens is probably the best word for Rose’s career: since 1998 he has won 6 titles all in the last 6 years. However, in 2013 he won the US Open by 2 shots to become the first English winner in 43 years. Rose has all the capabilities to put the cherry on top of his cake this year.
It is possible in golf to have a bad day and still come out on top, so late risers will be hungry to succeed today.
The power of experience has been argued exhaustively and Phil Mickleson personifies this in bucket-loads. Mickleson has gone from 71 to 68 to 67 this year, starting today on 11 under. He topped the third day with Rose at 5 under and his statistics are solid: 76% of shots have been hit on the fairway and he has taken 1.61 putt shots on average. In the last 24 years, Mickleson has won the green jacket three times and finished top-10 on 14 occasions. However, experience has not helped recently with a cut-off last year and no wins from 7 tournaments this year. Is Big Mick set to miss out or will the old dog use new tricks to win a fourth green jacket?
The Americans are dominating this year at Augusta and they have one man in particular to thank for this: Charley Hoffman. For those of you who don’t follow golf regularly, this name may seem unusual and you’re not wrong- Dustin must be kicking off! But he is rather unknown on the major stage with only one appearance at the Masters in the last 5 years. Although he has a FedEx Cup to his name, Hoffman needs to be consistent here, with increasing scores from 67 to 68 to 71. His irregularity was clearest on the 15th hole on which he produced an eagle in Round 1 but double-bogeyed in Round 3. It’s near-impossible to call what the Hoff will do today on 10 under, making the prospect of a shock title even tastier!
Four green jackets hang in his closet and 13 top 10 finishes will give Tiger plenty of motivation to finish strongly. However, his lack of consistency and famous temper will always go against him
It is possible in golf to have a bad day and still come out on top, so late risers will be hungry to succeed today. Rory McIlroy, who needs no introduction, is currently on 6 under after a storming Round 3. His eagle on the second hole asserts his position as a strong contender, at least in the eyes of BBC viewers of whom 23% voted him most likely to contend with Speith. Nostalgia of the 2014 Open and PGA? I’ll let you decide.
The Tiger is also prowling through the woods on 6 under, hungry to sprint past the other big-cats. An endangered species indeed, Tiger is one of few to improve his score throughout the tournament, from 73 to 69 to 68. Four green jackets hang in his closet and 13 top 10 finishes will give Tiger plenty of motivation to finish strongly. However, his lack of consistency and famous temper will always go against him. Will Tiger finish as ‘The Great Pretender’ of the woods?
like I said, it’s a matter of metres, even centimetres. One ball in the ruffage, one bunker blunder, one slip of the lip can cost you a bogey or a double-bogey.
One of the improving players is Ian Poulter, who is on 4 under, also joining Rose and Mickleson at the top of Round 3 yesterday with 5 under. He scored no bogeys yesterday after scoring 3 with a double on Thursday and 81% of shots reached the green under par. Whilst Speith plays his game on the putting green, Poulter gets there quicker. Not quite the tortoise and the hare but still a potential upset.
If you look at the Masters leader-board today, you would be forgiven for thinking the title is between Speith, Rose, Mickleson or Hoffman. However, like I said, it’s a matter of metres, even centimetres. One ball in the ruffage, one bunker blunder, one slip of the lip can cost you a bogey or a double-bogey. Two holes later, Speith could be feeling the pack’s breath on his neck.
So there we have it. Viewers of BBC Sport, remember this. Formula One has already been won this weekend by many seconds and there’s still a long way to go in the chase for Premier League glory. You want huge success which counts on the narrowest of margins? Tune in to Augusta tonight- it’ll make you sweat more than the spring sunshine for sure!